Aug. 30, 2017
There I was, minding my own business, driving down Hagadorn to go to the gym last Sunday. I glanced over at Hubbard Residence Hall and there they were – new Spartans and their parents loading boxes, bags, bedding and books into laundry bins as they moved into their new home on campus. And…I burst into tears. I don’t know why I’m surprised. It happens every single year.
The start of the new school year is hectic, crazy and exciting. It’s really something else to have 50,000 more people suddenly be around in the matter of a few days. It’s energizing to see young, fresh-faced students taking the campus by storm, filling bike racks, crowding the sidewalks and starting their college careers. And yet, it always makes me cry.
I can’t help but think about the day that I moved into Campbell Hall, with all my experiences ahead of me. Back then I couldn’t have imagined all the twists and turns my life would take, or that my path would eventually lead me back to East Lansing, literally steps away from that third-floor room. It honestly seems like it was only yesterday that I was navigating this big campus and figuring out where the library was.
Then I think of my daughter and her education. I swear, one day I was picking her up from her first day of kindergarten and I blinked and suddenly she was a college graduate. I know that people tell you it goes by so fast, but it really, truly does. And while the daily challenge of getting a kid through school isn't always easy, wow, do you miss it when it’s over. Hence the tears dripping onto my steering wheel on Sunday afternoon.
I could not be prouder of the incredible woman my daughter has become, but now that she’s doing the grownup thing and living in New York, I miss her all the time – especially at the start of the school year. It makes me want to buy her a backpack and a pencil case and pack her a lunch. Or shop with her at Ikea to outfit a dorm room. It’s still hard to believe that I’ve been there, done that. Seriously folks, blink of an eye.
Chris Long, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, knows how quickly time can fly as a college student. It’s why he takes the time each year to write a special welcome to his students giving them advice about being a Spartan. This year, he tells them about the importance of resiliency, like a proud, old tree on campus that refused to be knocked down completely. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: Be resilient, like a tree, to read more about how he encourages students to take advantage of their “wild and precious life.”
President Lou Anna K. Simon also welcomed students this week. First of all, she showed up Sunday to meet students and parents and help them move into the residence halls. I’ve ridden around with her in past years while she’s done this and it’s really cool. I love that she’s so engaged with her students that she personally wants to meet as many of them as possible, reassure nervous parents and even load up a laundry bin for them. She also wrote a special welcome for all students. Check out her note, FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK: Welcome home, Spartans, to read her welcoming words for new and old members of “Team MSU.”
One group of students, the College of Natural Science Dean’s Research Scholars, are taking full advantage of their time on campus. Even as undergrads, they’ve been paired up with faculty researchers and are involved in important scientific research. Check out the short video in the STUDENT VIEW: 2017 Dean’s Research Scholars, to see how sometimes making a new discovery leads to a discovery about one’s self.
I’ve dried my tears, navigated more crowded sidewalks and parking lots, helped lost students find their way and offered advice to new interns – and it’s only the first day of classes. I’ve offered advice in some past columns, Free Advice and Sage Advice that I still stand by. Oh, and I'll add "don't blink" to that advice.
My college days and college parent days may be a thing of the past, but I think I still have a lot to offer the world. As a Spartan, I’m never satisfied with sitting still and dwelling on the past without planning for the future. Spartans move through each stage of their lives with fierce determination to make a difference whatever way they can. Today, this new crop of Spartans is just discovering what being a Spartan is all about. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish. Spartans Will.
Photos by G.L. Kohuth